“Love is a many splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love.”
So said Christian in the Moulin Rouge and, to be honest, that quote has stuck with us ever since.
Because love – be it romantic, platonic, familial, or philautia (that’s self-love, to you and me) – is what life is truly all about. And, in a year of no touch and very little social contact, this much has become more apparent than ever before.
“It can be as simple as asking someone if they’re OK”
“I’m about to get deep, but this year has been a tough one for my relationship. We moved in together after six months on 1st January and within 6 weeks had both started working from home full time. Talk about snuffing out the honeymoon period! But between the tears, arguments, frustrations, and baptism of fire to each other’s annoying habits, I’ve realised that in a romantic relationship, being a friend is the most important thing.
“The moments I’ve treasured the most over the last year haven’t been the opportunities to get out the house and go for dinner, but simply the times we’ve asked each other, ‘Are you OK?’ and listened to what the other had to say.”
“Without physical contact, I’ve relearned the power of the written word”
“This year, amidst the Zoom meetings and FaceTimes and the relentless media bombardment online, has marked the return of pen and paper for me – good, old-fashioned, heart-warming letters. It’s not that I haven’t relied on technology like so many others, but I’ve also written notes, cards and letters more than any other year.
“I first wrote messages sharing news, that our wedding was to be postponed, and it was the gift of words from our dear friends and family that supported us and helped us move forward. I then wrote cards to my friends who are Key Workers, sending them words of encouragement, letting them know I was thinking of them. I enjoyed writing to anyone I couldn’t see, knowing that one small delivery may bring a big smile to their face.”
“I’m a teacher, and wrote to the children in my class many times, and they wrote back, a generation brought up with screens and phones and TikTok now writing purposefully to catch up with their teacher, miles away. Then, when we finally returned to the classroom, I found so much joy in my writing lessons, reading the children’s stories, diaries and letters and becoming immersed in a world that wasn’t this one.
“I made sure I never missed a birthday, and time and time again found myself with a pen in my hand to support loved ones from afar. Without physical contact this year, I have learnt (or should I say re-learnt, I think I always knew it) the power of words in spreading love, and long may it continue.”
“Trust in the process”
“I have generalised anxiety disorder and most of my anxiety is stemmed from things that are outside of my control, so relationships – friends, family and my boyfriend – can trigger it. If someone reacts in a way that feels ‘off’, it sets me off.
“Lockdown has made me step back from reading too much into things and to just trust that I’m where I am, with the people I’m meant to be with and that everything works out the way it’s supposed to!”
“My capacity for love is far greater than I ever realised”
“I’ve learned that under extreme circumstances (like a pandemic), I have even larger capabilities of love than I thought. It’s when you’re pushed to your absolute limits that you realise how much more love you have to give.
“I learned this by supporting my housemate through some truly difficult stuff and opting to put her before myself when needed because we operated as a unit through lockdown. So it was some kind of survival-motivated lesson, really.”
“Choose love over anger”
“When the Tier 4 announcement came and ruined my Christmas plans, I was angry. I cried noisy tears, I ranted and raved, I ate a lot of chocolate, and I swore like nobody’s fucking business. But then I got to thinking about all those people who have it so much worse than me, and realised I was being an absolute monster.
“So I donated some money to three charities close to my heart – Refuge, Battersea, and Shelter – and immediately felt better knowing that I’d done just the tiniest bit to try and make someone else’s shit Christmas less shit. My anger just sort of… dissolved.
“It reminded me that choosing to channel love over anger is always the way forward, every single time.”
“Always think before passing judgement”
“Be kind to yourself and others. Try not to judge other people for how they’re handling this situation because everyone has their own struggles and I think most people are doing the best they can.”
“Love isn’t a sodding fairytale, and it’s good to argue”
“My partner and I had months of gorgeousness where I left post it notes with ‘I love you’ in their home office, or they bought me a surprise pottery kit for no reason apart from that they thought I’d enjoy it… but we’ve also had a few weeks over the last year where we’ve bickered and even had one absolutely awful blazing row which descended into being pretty vile to each other!
“I think it’s important to know that it’s healthy to have disagreements, particularly being locked up together. Fundamentally you should love each other’s company and have respect for one another’s space, but it’s OK to argue: it’s how you deal with it that matters. After our horrible row we had a couple of days where we managed to get under the skin of what was pissing us off, and usually it comes down to communication!”
“Arguments can be healthy… granted they shouldn’t be the constant, but love isn’t perfect, and that’s a good thing. I don’t think people talk enough about what they learn from bad times or disagreements in relationships.
“Of course, you should talk about the good, but when people never mention the difficult parts you can end up feeling as though there’s something wrong with you because it’s not a sodding fairytale.”
“Real-life connection is the essence of wellbeing”
“Yes, WhatsApp messages and FaceTime is better than no contact at all, but there’s no denying this ongoing lockdown has made us realise that there’s no comparison for time spent together IRL.
“Right now, all I want to do is sit and chat without worrying what my face looks like on screen. I’m sick of dealing with poor WiFi connections. I’m tired of conversations dropping in and out of signal. Because… well, because I’d rather hug my loved ones instead.
“I’d like to sit next to them, feel their warmth against mine, as we chat over mugs of tea and share slabs of homemade cake. I’d like to drop in on my mum and sister without warning. I’d like to go out for brunch with friends. I’d like to cuddle all the babies who’ve been born that I’ve yet to meet, take my pal’s new dog for a walk, console those who’ve lost someone to this awful virus.
“Essentially, I want to be there for people, present and in the moment. So this lockdown has taught me to never take my loved ones for granted: yes, it’s good to schedule in ‘me time’ and prioritise self care… but I also need to schedule in meetups, too. Because real-life connection is the essence of wellbeing.”
“Find someone who speaks your love language”
“When it comes to love, I think it’s important to learn and understand how other people like to be loved and what their love language is. Whether it’s platonic or romantic, I think learning how others like to be loved is an essential part of loving someone else.
“2020 has also taught me to be a lot more forgiving of myself and that it’s OK to not be OK sometimes: as cheesy that sounds, I think it’s true! And I’ve learned the importance of communicating my feelings, no matter how big or small they may seem.”
“By loving myself, I’ve been in a better position to show love to others”
“As someone who has struggled with their mental health in the past, I know how important self-love can be when it comes to our wellbeing.
“But no year has shown me quite how valuable our relationship with ourselves can be quite like 2020.”
“Whether I’m treating myself to my favourite food, forcing myself to go for a walk (I always feel better afterwards) or doing something I enjoy, self-love has not only helped me to survive a particularly challenging year, but it has also put me in a better position to support those around me.
“This is because, by giving myself permission to recharge when I needed to and showing myself compassion when things weren’t going quite right, I’ve felt more emotionally secure in myself and equipped to share love with my friends and family. It’s a win-win situation!”
“True love is wanting what’s best for someone, even if that doesn’t include you”
“Being in a long-distance relationship is tough but being in one during a pandemic has been pretty heartbreaking. I last saw my partner on 28 February and the months apart have been a blur of countless WhatsApp conversations and video calls with his face reduced to a tiny pixelated screen. But through it all, I’ve learnt the importance of sacrifice.
“Before he moved, we spent a lot of time together and I think it can be easy to take something as simple as a night in or a passing hug for granted. Now, we have to work with each other for everything. With the distance and time difference (seven or eight hours depending on the season – he’s based in China), we have to plan something as simple as a phone call and will often wake up early/sleep late to work around our hugely differing schedules. We make time for movie dates (we’ve gotten pretty good at hitting play at the same time to make sure we’re in sync) and we both send updates of what we did while the other one was sleeping, including the most mundane of details, for when we wake up.”
“But it’s also made me see the importance of sacrificing time and spending it apart. The situation in China has been a lot different to the UK. When we were in the middle of lockdown in the summer, he was able to go out to bars and restaurants like normal and I didn’t want him to feel like he had to stay glued to his phone or have any guilt, so I encouraged him to make plans and explore the country as much as possible. Sure, we’ve missed out on lots of time together this year but it’s made us see how much we’re willing to do for each other and has helped us become stronger.
“I saw a quote back in April and it really stuck with me: “true love is wanting what’s best for someone, even if that doesn’t include you”. I know, it’s cheesy as hell (and I’m sure that quote was probably about a break up) but knowing he’s where he’s meant to be and being successful in his career pushes me through it. Besides, we have so much more to come when this is all over.”
“Love isn’t easy; you have to work at it”
“I adopted a rescue dog at the beginning of lockdown, which has proven an absolute joy. But it’s also been really hard work. Like, really hard work. I’ve had to field expensive vet bills, and juggle his needs around my routine, and deal with lots of behavioural setbacks I wasn’t necessarily expecting.
“But I think the lesson I’ve taken away from all of this is this: if you put the work in, you’ll get it back, and then some. My dog loves me without question, whenever I’m mad or bad or sad. And I’ve made it my mission to do the same with him, always.”
“Love can be found in the great outdoors”
“Seeing 10 baby bluetits bathing morning and night in my garden, all whilst tweeting away joyfully, really lifted my spirits and reminded me how lucky I am.”
“I’ve learned to slow down and appreciate what I have”
“It might sound crazy to many I’m sure, but I loved the spring lockdown – the weeks when life as we know it paused and remembered to see in between the lines of life to the truth of why we live.”
“I loved walking to the park hand in hand with my wife and son, along the empty open road to keep strangers on the pavement safe. I loved hearing the birds in my garden, instead of traffic noise which has since bled its way back into our lives. I loved spending so many weeks growing alongside my son, making conference calls while kicking balls in the garden and scratching our names into the side of the shed on the day he turned 18 months. I continue to love delivering my wife surprise cups of tea in the middle of hectic conference calls, along with a sturdy biscuit of course. I love that I was brave enough to leave my job which I had hated for 18 months straight.
“For many this year will be a year to forget… but for these and countless other reasons, it is going to go down in history, in our family, as one of remembering.”
“Pick your battles”
“Lockdown came mid-way through the first year of my marriage and wow, that’s been an interesting ride. In the early months, we had moments of shouting and screaming at each other. I’ve thrown huge strops and lobbed some tiny Buddha figurines he loves on the floor, and he’s snapped at me about not eating the food we have in the fridge (hey, I like treating myself to a takeaway. It’s a pandemic law, right?).
“But the love lesson I’ve learned is to pick my battles. I caught him drinking orange juice out of the bottle this morning. Normally I’d have lost my shit, but today, today I picked my battles and drank out of it too. Living in a one-bedroom house there’s no escape from one another, so we’ve had to learn to live with each other’s foibles.
“Now he sits through five episodes of Four In A Bed without moaning, and I take a deep breath and try to smile when he plays videos loudly in bed in the morning.”
“I’ve redefined what ‘family’ means to me”
“This was not the year that I anticipated falling in love but, alas, I stumbled into a Covid-romance and I’m probably the most romantically happy I’ve ever been. The thing is, however, for all that I’ve quite happily re-learned that love really is found in the most unexpected of places (Hinge and WhatsApp voice notes, for me) it’s my understanding of familial love that’s really struck me this year.
“I live with three other housemates who seem silly to define as friends. They’ve become the backbone of my existence in a way that I never doubted, but didn’t anticipate I’d have needed so much this year. As someone whose concept of ‘family’ has shifted and reshaped over the years, I’ve never felt so at home as I have stuck in a rented house with three other formidable women who have not only gotten me through this year, but have made it one that I won’t only remember for being royally shit.
“I’ll also remember it as one I spent surrounded by the purest, silliest and most unbreakable love you can imagine; one that even withstands my regular tantrums.”
“Forgiveness is a gift I must keep giving to myself”
“I think it’s very important – with the love of acting and writing and creative things – that we make sure we are forgiving to ourselves. We need to forgive ourselves for not being in the headspace or position to be able to do the things we love.”
“I’ve also learnt this year that we will find ways to do creative things. Using online technology has been a difficult task but throughout this year I have acted, written and performed for several things. It has made a real difference to my wellbeing to be able to in some small way do the things I love.
“In terms of other love lessons learnt during lockdown (try saying that fast!) – I think I’ve learnt that, while I am very social, I have enjoyed the time spent with my other half on a solo basis much more than I thought I would have. The physical and mental closeness forced by lockdown has been somewhat of a lifesaver, not a chore.”
“I’ve figured out who my special people are”
“During lockdown, I truly understood what Bridget Jones meant when she described her London friends as being an “urban family”. I’ve made different pockets of friends around the city since moving here four years ago (god that seems so long ago), but during the pandemic I’ve really developed some lifelong friendships – and some of them have taken me by surprise.
“I guess it took a traumatic year to really work out those super special people in my life.”
“We’ve been there for each other through the highs and lows, keeping each other entertained and providing comfort. From the 7-minute daily voicenotes to enjoying a socially-distanced gin in a tin (or 10) in the park during summer and wintery walks together when the cold hit – this is the love that only an urban family can bring.”
“Love yourself enough to walk away”
“I ended a serious relationship during lockdown and, while it was hugely inconvenient (I had to find somewhere new to live, and pack up all my stuff, all without help due to social distancing restrictions), I feel 1,000,000% better for it.
“Love shouldn’t make you feel smaller than you really are. You shouldn’t tense up every time they walk in, you shouldn’t always be walking on eggshells, and you should never feel scared in your own home. And, while it took me a while to realise all of this, it’s probably the most important love lesson I will ever learn.”
“True friendship is the ultimate”
“I have been shielding, and the friends who have appeared at my door unexpectedly with books or puzzles or just to enjoy a safe and socially distanced chat really touched my heart after days alone and not speaking to a soul. I couldn’t thank them enough.
“Sometimes, love really is just as simple as picking up the phone or driving round to check in on someone.”
“Love is a privilege”
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned about love this year it’s that having so much of it is a privilege. I’m very lucky in that lockdowns for me were not the same as they were for some, living as I do with my family and having great friends and a great boyfriend to fall back on when I inevitably get low or stressed or overwhelmed.
“Having people to share time with doesn’t always feel like a luxury, but I suppose that in many ways it is. Without the people in my life I wouldn’t have experienced half as much joy and comfort this year, and that is something that can easily be taken for granted when circumstances aren’t so extreme.”